What is a QDRO?

A gavel and legal scales in front of a wall of law books

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, simplified to the acronym QDRO, is unique to the area of Family Law as the name describes. These court orders are specially related to the division of retirement accounts, directed toward the retirement account holder. These orders are crucial in a divorce case where any form of retirement is being divided between the parties, therefore, speak with your Orlando Divorce Attorney in more detail regarding the powers of a QDRO.

A QDRO is one of the only methods for any individual to receive retirement benefits of their former spouse. Because retirement accounts have strict regulations as to withdraws, set ups, usage and they are held solely in the name of the single spouse who earned the retirement funds through their employment, a separate court order must be in place in order to receive the benefits designated to you through a settlement agreement. This is where the QDRO comes into play.

The QDRO will address the court order directing the division of the retirement plan, the specific retirement plan to be divided, the payment amount, the length or reoccurring nature of payments, and the name and addresses of each spouse. Within the QDRO, each spouse will be referred to as the participant, who was employed and earned the funds within the account, and the alternate payee, the spouse entitled to division payments. The QDRO must be specific and detailed in order to be accepted and implemented by the retirement plan provider. Therefore, it is important to have an experienced Orlando Divorce Attorney prepare these documents with you.

Without a QDRO, former spouses who were granted portions of their spouse’s retirement benefits will not be able to receive payments on them by simply providing a copy of the Divorce Decree or Marital Settlement Agreement. Federal law specifically requires a QDRO to be in effect to distribute retirement benefits to alternate payees, or to make early disbursements. Generally, QDROs will be drafted after the divorce, but they should be drafted as soon as possible after being designated with the award of a retirement plan as to ensure you receive your benefits. If no QDRO is in place and the spouse retires, the plan will automatically begin full payments and your benefits may be hindered. Or if you fail to file a QDRO before the death of your spouse or before the remarriage and divorce of the employed spouse, your benefits will also be impacted.

Important items to note is that QDROs apply only to private companies, private retirement plans, and nonprofits. Further, with over 700,000 different types of private retirement plans in effect in the United States, it is important to also adhere to their specific regulation for delivery or application of a QDRO. If your spouse’s employer was a government entity, other steps will be required to divide a retirement account as even more complexities will arise. Therefore, with any division of a retirement plan, employ the aid of an Orlando Divorce Attorney to discuss the complexities and necessary procedures to follow to obtain your entitled payments.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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